The Global Genome: Biotechnology, Politics, and Culture (Part One)
..not only do we see biology being networked and distributed across the globe, but we are also seeing a hegemonic understanding of biological “life itself” that ceases to make a hard distinction between the natural and the artificial, the biological and the informatic. This is the twofold aspect of biotechnology that this book intends to explore. On the one hand, we witness a range of current events that readily display features of a globalizing industry. On the other hand, we also witness an ongoing integration of biology and informatics, genetics and computers, DNA chips and gene-finding software. The aim of The Global Genome is, then, to comprehend these two developments: to situate changes in the biotech industry within the larger context of globalization and political economy, and, conversely, to understand globalization as a core part of the practices and concepts of the biotech industry.
“Globalization” is a phenomenon that has been widely discussed in a number of contexts: economic (e.g., international organizations such as the World Trade Organization [WTO], the International Monetary Fund [IMF], and the World Bank), political (e.g., the so-called withering of the nationstate and the limits of geopolitical borders), and cultural (e.g., the hegemony of American culture or what some call “cultural imperialism”). But little attention has been given to the consideration of globalization as a biological phenomenon—that is, globalization in the context of biotechnology. The emergence of a biotech “industry” in the 1970s and the continued expansion of the pharmaceutical industry have arguably been global endeavors from the beginning. In this sense, biotechnology is coextensive with globalization. Similarly, “big science” projects such as the mapping of the human genome and events such as the emergence of new infectious diseases (the 2003 Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome [SARS] outbreak) take place on a global level that includes networks of all kinds. Biological networks of infection (a novel virus strain) are contextualized by networks of transportation (the air-travel industry), which are then affected by governmental modes of regulation (travel restrictions, quarantine), which are countered by medical response efforts (disease surveillance networks), which are linked to medical-economic interventions (new vaccines, “fast-track” U.S. Food and Drug Administration [FDA] drug approval), all of which have a palpable effect in terms of the mass media and a larger cultural impact (science fiction films or television programs featuring bioterrorist attacks or dirty bombs).
Thus, the primary aim of this book is to understand how the processes of globalization form a core component of biological knowledge and practice, without, however, simply determining it. In our contemporary context, biotechnology and globalization will be seen as indissociable, while not simply being identical. Indeed, it can even be stated that biotechnology and, by extension, a biotech “industry” are unthinkable without a globalizing context. The intersection of biology and informatics in this case is instructive. A largescale scientific endeavor such as the mapping of the human genome integrates genetic and computer codes at many different levels, from the agglomeration of information in databases, to the use of diagnostic technologies, to the development of novel genetic pharmaceuticals. In this increasing globalization of biotechnology, we witness the exchange of not only information, but, specifically, many types of genetic information. The “global genome” is the result
of what happens when biotechnology is globalized, when economic exchanges, political changes, and semiotic exchanges are coupled with biological exchanges.
The Global Genome
Biotechnology, Politics, and Culture
MIT Press 2006
Encoding / Production
The Global Genome
Bioinformatic Bodies and the Problem of “Life Itself”
A Political Economy of the Genomic Body
Recoding / Distribution
Biocolonialism, Genomics, and the Databasing of the Population
The Incorporate Bodies of Recombinant Capital
Bioinfowar: Biologically Enhancing National Security
Decoding / Consumption
The Thickness of Tissue Engineering
Regenerative Medicine: We Can Grow It for You Wholesale
Appendix A: Biotechnology Fields and Areas of Application
Appendix B: Techniques and Technologies in Biotechnology Research
Appendix C: A Brief Chronology of Bioinformatics 333
Appendix D: Biotechnology and Popular Culture; or, Mutants, Replicants, and Zombies